Deputy Speaker suspends plenary over absence of ministers

Deputy Speaker suspends plenary over absence of ministers
Deputy Speaker suspends plenary over absence of ministers

Africa-Press – Uganda. Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Thomas Tayebwa, Wednesday prematurely adjourned the House sitting after the front bench meant for Cabinet ministers was empty. Out of the 81 ministers, only three were present in the House, forcing Mr Maurice Kibalya, the Bugabula South Member of Parliament to raise a procedural matter on the absence of ministers.

Of particular concern was the absence of ministers from the docket of gender, labour and social development and those in charge of Karamoja, under which the issues of Karamoja street children fall.

Prior to the adjournment, the Chairperson of the Committee on Gender, Ms Flavia Kabahenda had started presenting a report on a motion for a resolution of Parliament urging government to respond to the plight of Karimojong children enslaved in street begging and child labour. “Right Honourable Speaker, I rise on the procedural issue. The discussions we are having here are very fundamental which require the presence of the key ministers of Karamoja and the gender minister who are key partners in the plight of the children of Karamoja.

Our rules of procedure demand that at least 30 per cent of the ministers be present when we are holding plenary, but you can see here the front bench is almost empty- save for the Prime Minister and these ones. So are we proceeding well without the ministers?” Mr Kibalya asked. More than 15,000 children have been found to be employed on the streets of Kampala, Jinja and Soroti with conditions akin to slavery.

Ms Cecilia Ogwal, the Dokolo Woman Member of Parliament rose to support Mr Kibalya and wondered where the ministers were. She noted that when Mr Tayebwa was still the Government Chief Whip, he mobilised the Members of Parliament to support the expansion of the Cabinet for effective service delivery.

“I remember you coming to my house deep into the night and asking me to sponsor the motion together with Fox Odoi, which we did. Now, I want to ask you now that you are the Speaker, why have the ministers continued to be absent and why we must continue to hold plenary without the ministers? We are not asking for too much. 30 per cent is not asking for too much especially when we have more than 80 ministers, the biggest cabinet in the region,” Ms Ogwal said.

The Prime Minister, Ms Robinah Nabbanja, attempted to explain the absence of the ministers, but her explanation was rejected by the House. After listening to the legislators’ submissions on the matter, Mr Tayebwa then turned to the Premier, questioning her why ministers have continued to stay away from parliamentary duties. “Rt Hon Prime Minister, this order paper came out quite early and we discussed it with your representative and promised that ministers will be available. The Opposition Chief Whip is here and is my witness. We discussed this issue. I am constrained to continue with the sitting of the House when I have only two members of the Front Bench and therefore adjourn the house to tomorrow. I will have a meeting with you over this after here,” Mr Tayebwa said.

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